Sunday, November 07, 2021

Why working together makes sense...

In case you haven't been paying attention, a Caribbean leader of note, and in the "Slap a border on the road going into Oroville and the road going out and give them what they want" department...

Back when I got the plans for Loose Moose 2, doing the pre-build in my head I realized I'd need at least seventy sheets of 15mm plywood, quite a bit of lumber, a whole lot of epoxy, and quite a bit of glass fiber. Which, when added up in terms of money, was a rather daunting number if I had needed to pay full retail for it.

Now if I had been just a single guy building a boat I might have been able to get something like (if I were lucky) maybe a 5% discount on the needful materials. Luckily for me I was a member of a French boat building organization and could buy materials through them for something akin to a 35% discount on just about everything I needed to build and outfit the boat.

Since we lived in a small boat at the time just outside Paris in Joinville-le-Pont we also needed a space to build the boat. Since we knew a small co-op of boat builders in Meaux (best known for it's excellent Brie and mustard) we bought into the co-op there for an affordable place to build with access to stationary tools as well a free place to park Loose Moose while we built Loose Moose 2. Being part of the co-op also gave us a deeply discounted connection to a stainless steel fabricator and even a large discount on the crane that put us in the water once we were ready to launch LM2 on the Marne.

Launching with some help from our friends

Being part of a co-op and a national organization devoted to helping folks build their own boats was not just about getting building materials on the cheap. Maybe its most important benefit is the emotional support and physical support support they provided. Building a boat is hard work and we all have bad days. While building LM2 if I ever needed an extra hand there was always someone more than happy to help. If I needed a tool they'd be there to loan it to me. When I was down in the dumps there always seemed to be someone to point out that we all have bad days, tomorrow would be better, and to correct my Spanish cow pronunciation of MERDE.

There's a lot to be said for having a support group when you're building a boat.

Of course, if you're building a boat in the US of A there's bugger all support for the lone boat builder. The marine trades treat you like you're prey or a ATM and only see potential profits when selling you materials which are so jacked up pricewise that even if you could get a deep discount, they are nothing close to being affordable.

In pricing out the plywood for the SKROWL 900 design I was amazed that a quote I got for seventy sheets of plywood had a discount that was so miserly/minute that it did not even cover the cost of delivery to a freight forwarder.

Now, if I was part of a co-op and the co-op was buying four hundred sheets of plywood, drums rather than jugs of epoxy we'd be talking some serious discounts. More importantly a half dozen folks in a cooperative group could afford to rent a large building space to bring the cost to the individual member down to something affordable. Trim out the co-op with a collection of shared tools and you have a real boat shop.

It's all about economics of scale.

Want to know how it gets even better?

Have the core members of the co-op building the same boat. Let's say you have four members building the ARGO. This would allow the member to just build two molds instead of eight. Share the labor of actually building the component parts and you're cooking with Henry Ford technology on steroids. In my experience, where molds are part of the mix it is not uncommon for the builder/builders of the mold to knock off some extra components or hulls or rent the molds out to subsidize the co-ops costs.

Sure, some folks will take a long time building their boats while others will get their boat done and off sailing into the sunset. Both of the co-ops we bought into we were replacing someone who'd successfully finished their boat. When we left there were folks waiting in line to take our place.

I'll go out on a limb here and point out that, unless you're wealthy and don't care what building a boat costs, the only sensible way to build a boat is going to involve some way to make the experience easier and cheaper. From my experience the best way to do it is along the lines of co-oping in one form or another.

Maybe the next time you ask for a quote on materials ask for two quotes; one per sheet and one per gross. You'll find the answers quite enlightening. Also, keep in mind that when you're buying by the pallet or gross you can go directly to the company that makes the product and cut out a few middle men in the process to make the discounts even deeper.

Then again, you would have to work together and these days that's somewhat problematic. Still, in my mind at least, it would be more than worth the effort...

Listening to Canned Heat

So it goes...